The Dan Carmel Hotel, which put Haifa
on the tourism map, opened its gates in March 1963 as the northern city's first five-star hotel.
These day, the hotel is celebrating its 50th anniversary and has recently undergone a complete renovation at a total investment of NIS 70 million (about $19 million). The jubilee celebrations are a good opportunity to reflect on some of the celebrities who spent a night or two in Dan Carmel's rooms, including heads of state, famous actors and senior military officers.
Dan Carmel Hotel in 1960s. Brought prestige to northern city (Photo: Dan Hotels Archive)
On the eve of the opening, the hotel's 14 floors and 220 rooms were lit up with thousands of lamps, becoming the city's greatest attraction. Pinhas Shober, who was in charge of founding the hotel, was appointed as Dan Carmel's first general manager.
The opening event attracted all of Haifa's society elite, government representatives and other dignitaries. Some prominent American artists arrived too, including actress Joan Fontaine, comedian Harpo Marx and author James Michener.
US President Jimmy Carter with Ezer Weizman
(Photo: Dan Hotels Archive)
attends a meeting at Dan Carmel (Photo: Dan Hotels Archive)
Lily and Ariel Sharon
at one of hotel's cocktails (Photo: Dan Hotels Archive)
It was a great challenge marketing the hotel as Haifa was not considered a city of tourism at the time. Mayor Abba Hushi's "Red Haifa" was not part of tourists and pilgrims' itineraries.
Dan Carmel's first general manager had a particularly challenging job: To market Haifa's first luxury hotel, both to Israelis and to incoming tourists and make them include the Carmel city in their travel routes.
Italian charm in the Holy Land. Sophia Loren at Dan Carmel (Photo: Dan Hotels Archive)
Liked to spend long vacations here. David Ben-Gurion (Photo: Dan Hotels Archive)
One of the ways to bring the hotel to people's awareness was to host international statesmen and public opinion leaders. The list of guests in the hotel's first years included former US President Jimmy Carter;
the Duke of Edinburgh; Belgium's royal couple; Meyer Weisgal, one of the founding fathers of the Weizmann Institute of Science; American operatic tenor Richard Tucker; violinist Isaac Stern; movie stars Sophia Loren, Peter Finch, Peter Ustinov and Melina Mercouri.
Sophia Loren even stayed at the hotel for a long period of time during the shooting of the film "Judith" in Israel.
Israel's own celebrities visited the Haifa hotel as well. One guest who particularly enjoyed staying at Dan Carmel was Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion,
who used to spend particularly long vacations there.
Indeed, the Dan Carmel Hotel managed to put Haifa on the tourism map and include the city in foreign visitors' itineraries.
For the first time, Israel's main port city had a high-class hotel too supplying all hospitality services which tourists and high-ranking guests could receive in Tel Aviv, Paris, London and other places.
held some of her meetings here too (Photo: Dan Hotels Archive)
Heads of the United Jewish Appeal, who stayed at the Dan chain's hotels, added Dan Carmel to their regular hotels. The Foreign and Defense ministries included Dan Carmel on their list of "safe hotels," where high-ranking guests could be accommodated.
Israelis began spending time in Haifa as well, also thanks to the hotel, the magnificent view from its rooms and the high quality of service. Many families turned the hotel into their base for weekend trips or vacations in the Galilee and northern Israel.
When it first opened, Dan Carmel Hotel had the Rondo restaurant, which specialized in grilled food and soon became the favorite place for all celebrities during visits or work tours in northern Israel. Moshe Dayan,
Yigal Alon, Yitzhak Rabin
and many others were among the restaurants regular visitors.
Former President Yitzhak Navon
arrives at Dan Carmel (Photo: Dan Hotels Archive)
Another important hotel guest was Egyptian President Anwar Sadat
on his second visit to Israel on September 4, 1979. Sadat arrived at the Haifa Port onboard the Egyptian presidential yacht, accompanied by his wife Jehan, who was moved to see the Arab neighborhood of Haifa from her hotel window and the coexistence between Jews and Arabs in the city.
Dan Carmel is located on the top of Mount Carmel, at the upper part of the Bahá'í Gardens,
and is surrounded by gardens. All of the rooms' balconies offer a panoramic view of the city. Yet the hotel is in the center of the city, just a few minutes' walk from most of Haifa's tourist attractions.
Dan Carmel's presidential suite (Photo: Uri Ackerman)
Swimming between pine trees. Hotel pool (Photo: Uri Ackerman)
The hotel has undergone a reconstruction process, in which 227 rooms
(including 16 suites in different sizes) were rebuilt and designed in a classic, modern style and in a Super Deluxe standard, as in the world's leading luxury hotels.
The renovated hotel offers a variety of restaurants and bars, such as the Palachi chef restaurant and pub and a dairy restaurant with a piano in the spacious lobby lounge. Another restaurant is Gan Dan, overlooking the swimming pool.